Ephesians 2: 8-10; James 2: 14-19; Mark 12: 29-31
Have you heard of people needing to keep a proper “work-life balance”? This means that work doesn’t so consume you that you forget about living your life at home with family or having a personal life outside of work. Sometimes believers have that problem in their faith as well, but I’ll call it “works-faith balance.” Do you remember the following verse we examined about two weeks ago in my last Bible study blog on the Bible book of Ephesians?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” [Ephesians 2: 8-9. NIV]
One time when I began a Bible Study to adults in church on Ephesians, I talked about what it means to be “saints” from chapter 1, verse 1. One adult said, “All I know is that I’m not good enough.” The term “saints” in the New Testament of the Holy Bible solely refers to believers – all Christian believers. The term has taken on more weight through the centuries through the application of the term for individual believers by a church, such as the Roman Catholic Church or an Orthodox church. In this case, the church wants to venerate certain believers due to what the church considers to be an exemplary spiritual life, or a life marked by superior spiritual devotion. When the person in the Bible study class stated that they weren’t good enough, they were thinking of this kind of saint. However, it is noted that the feeling of not being “good enough” to be a saint is actually a form of personal effort – “works.” In other words, the person is saying that their works – their behavior, their deeds – aren’t good enough to think of themselves as a ‘saint’.”
We need to go back to what scripture says about works versus faith to strike that works-faith balance. The scripture I cited above states that salvation is through a person’s faith (belief and trust in God) in response to God’s initiation of grace (love that we don’t deserve) toward us. Faith is the foundation of what we are about in our relationship with God. It is not by works or what we do. However, we build our works on that foundation of faith. Therefore, our relationship to God depends on our response of faith to his love – and nothing else. The message of the book of Galatians is that “Faith + Nothing = Salvation.”
To reiterate, a person might think, then, that if they expressed their faith in God, that is all there is to it. They don’t have to do anything more with their faith. However, works (what we do in life) do matter in our faith, but it’s not the driving force. Works is the result and companion to our faith. Let’s look at God’s perspective on the works-faith balance through James in James 2: 14-19:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. *You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” [NIV]
As previously mentioned, faith is the beginning point, the starting line. As a result, the person of faith will perform actions that will be helpful or beneficial to others. This is what is called “works.” Works is what we do in response to our faith. For that reason, I will change the phrase to “Faith-Works Balance.”
As Jesus said, when asked about which commandment he believed was the most important, he replied:
“’The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’” [Mark 12: 29-31. NIV]
During this COVID time of stress and division, make these verses your calling card in life as you strive toward a “Faith-Works Balance.”
Bonus: Have you seen in my writings regarding Ephesians how I explain faith by putting “belief and trust” in brackets right after the word “faith”? If you’ll look at the last verse that I quoted above from the book of James, you’ll see that demons (those beings opposed to God and his people) believe there is one God. However, the difference is that they don’t trust in him with their existence to have him govern their actions and their lives. Faith = Belief + Trust.
Another bonus for you today: If you will look at Paul’s writings, you will largely see this pattern to each of his books, which were originally letters. He starts with greetings to the people to whom he is writing, followed by some statements about those believers. Next, Paul digs into the theology behind the purpose of this letter. After the theology, he gives some very practical instructions about how we should live as people of faith. He then closes with some parting words to his audience. If you will look at the index in your Bible, Paul’s writings begin with the book of 1 Corinthians and ends with Philemon. There is some discussion regarding whether Paul wrote Hebrews, so I’ll leave Hebrews out of Paul’s list.
Take care, be safe in every sense. Please. I am writing these entries for you, so I hope you will stay well to continue to enjoy and learn from these words.
Categories: How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?